From the moment they learned to talk, my children have been asking for a pet. They went from “Goo-goo, gaa-gaa, ma-ma, da-da” to asking,” Mother Dear, might we inquire as to when a canine companion will be joining our household?” in unison.
Okay, they never really speak in unison. They prefer to tag-team. One will say, “Mom, mom, mom, when can we get a dog? I want a dog. I also want a cat. Can we have a cat? Mom, mom, mom, why can’t we have a pet? I really want a pet. I like hamsters. Can we have a hamster? Mom, mom, mom, what about a lizard? If I catch a snake or a lizard, can we keep it as a pet? Mom, mom, mom… .” And when that one gets tired, the other one just picks up where the first left off with “Mom, mom, mom, I want a pet… .” This is why we don’t have a third child.
They’ve even begun listing what pets their friends have.
“Kyle has TWO dogs.”
“Rudy and Charlie have TWO fish AND a cat.”
“Heather and Conner have guinea pigs!”
“Isabelle has horses and sheep and a cat and a dog and a hermit crab and a canary and a gecko and an alpaca and a goat and a goldfish and hamsters…”
They are no longer allowed to play with Isabelle. She has a menagerie. She’s a bad influence.
No, seriously, I would love to adopt a pet. I’m a dog or cat or both person. I’m not crazy about rodents or reptiles, and I have no idea how to care for anything as large as a horse or a cow or an elephant but I’m sure it involves the scooping of really big poop. So, when the time comes, I will gladly adopt a dog or a cat into our family.
And even when my children aren’t harassing me about getting a pet, I am thinking about it. I see benefits. In addition to learning to care for animals and reaping the rewards of love, I believe they will keep unwanted animals away—the mice that chewed through the electrical system of our car costing us thousands of dollars, the squirrel that pees on our front porch daily, the crazy neighbor dog who has been known to look through our windows and bark at us while we are in our own house. Yes, a pet might deter some of this unwanted animal activity. Of course, the down-side would be fewer turkeys and bunnies, too, but I think I can live with that.
I am well aware that a pet would mean work for me, and I am not up to scooping kitty-litter or house-training a dog. I deal with the post-digestive end of enough beings in this household, and so I’ve told my son, “We will think about getting a pet once you are potty-trained.” You would think that would be an incentive, a real motivator, but so far, that has not been the case.
So, yes, my children were surprised when I handed the guy at the county fair a five dollar bill and let them toss ping-pong balls into the those itty-bitty fish bowls. And I was equally surprised when they managed to win three goldfish. THREE. The next time anyone tells you those carnival games at the fair a rigged and that no one ever wins, please slap them for me. Hard.
So, why did I so easily hand over my money and let my children take a chance on winning fish? Well, I think I secretly wanted them to have a pet, but walking into the ASPCA and coming out with a dog or a cat would have been too intentional—like asking for trouble, going back on my “not until you are potty-trained” rule. I figured that if they won a pet, it would be absolve me of responsibility—not for the fish, but for exercising prudent judgment. It would be an act of God or destiny or chance—definitely well beyond my control.
And that is how Bubbles, Basil, and Goldie became our first ever pets.
Sadly, Bubbles survived less than 36 hours. My daughter found him belly-up this morning and concluded that Basil and Goldie accidently killed him in his sleep. You see, she found him on the bottom of the tank next to the whale statue, a non-floating bath toy that they put in the tank for decoration. Naturally, she surmised that Bubbles fell asleep next to the whale statue, and not seeing him there, Goldie and Basil tried to move the statue and in doing so crushed him. Yes, never mind that the whale statue was in the position it had originally been placed and Bubbles’ body didn’t appear “crushed.” So much for her career as a detective.
“We need to have a funeral,” she said in a very matter-of-fact voice as she led us into the bathroom. “First, we say a prayer. Then, we all say something nice about Bubbles. Then, we say another prayer.” She’s an expert on this sort of thing having attended a total of two funerals in her lifetime. Having remembered this so well, however, I’m thinking she could have a career as a funeral director.
“I’ll start with the prayer,” she continued. “Oh, Lord, thank you for this wonderful day and please make tomorrow even better.” She starts every prayer that way. I think it is sweet. “Please make Bubbles go to Heaven to be with Grandpa and Hutch. Amen. And now, a few words from Mama. She was Bubbles’ special friend.”
Okay, so I am the fish’s special friend? When did that happen? “Bubbles was always a good fish. Knowing him gave us all such joy. He will be missed by all who knew him, especially Goldie and Basil. Rest in peace, dear Bubbles.”
Then, my daughter gestured to her brother. It was his turn. “Um, um, um. I don’t know what to say.” He stuttered and looked at his feet. Of course, he was struggling; this was only his second funeral.
And so, she took her turn at delivering the eulogy. “Bubbles was born in an ocean and lived at the fair, but he died in a fish tank. He was a very old fish and he enjoyed eating fish food and swimming. Now, he is in Heaven. I miss him with all my heart. He was our pet and he was my best friend. I will never, ever forget him.”
“And he liked to play games!” My son interrupted full of pride because he had thought of something to say about the dearly departed fish.
“Yes, he liked to play games. We will always remember the games Bubbles played with us. Amen.” Games? Okay.
And together, the kids flushed the toilet. Bye-bye, Bubbles. “And now, Mama will lead us in prayer.”
“Heavenly Father, we thank you for Bubbles. Thank you for all the memories we have of him. We ask that you heal our hearts as we mourn him. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
That’s the best I could do. It’s a funeral for a fish I had known for all of a day and a half and yet, I had been given the title of “his special friend.”
You always hear deaths—like all “bad” things—happen in threes. Well, we have three fish, and so, sure, I would bet it does happen in threes this time. Of course, if we don’t limit the superstition to just one species, we can say that Hutch’s death was the first, Bubbles’ was the second, and with a little luck that peeing squirrel with have a run-in with the Peeping Tom neighbor dog.